by Mary Jessica Hammes
January 31, 2012
Don’t let the wordy title deter you: BabyBabyOhBaby: Nurturing Your Gorgeous & Growing Baby by Breastfeeding is actually an extremely to-the-point yet thorough how-to DVD for moms-to-be, new moms, and even not-so-new moms.
Research reveals new information about the importance of breastfeeding and breast milk, but what we know about breastfeeding basics is pretty uniform. There’s no shortage of parenting websites and books, or even videos on YouTube, that will tell you why breastfeeding is best for babies and show you tips and techniques to get breastfeeding off to a good start. So what makes this DVD special?
It’s all about the presentation. The tone. The message: There is no singular right way to breastfeed; you are not alone in your concerns, worries, obstacles; you can do this. That’s where this DVD shines. Helped by the fact that it features real moms breastfeeding and talking about it, giving the video a refreshing sense of authenticity.
It starts out with the encouraging suggestion that breastfeeding is simply the next part of what you’ve already been doing:
“For nine months, you’ve been making a miracle,” says the narrator Alyson Steel). “…And your decision to breastfeed your baby will continue the brilliant work you’ve already done, because breastfeeding is the single most important step you can take to ensure your baby’s continued growth, health and well-being.”
The moms who appear in the video look like people you know, of various ethnicities, ages, body sizes and shapes, and tattoo preferences. Sometimes they talk directly to the camera, but most of the time they are busy having genuinely sweet interactions with their babies—snuggling, gazing in adoration, and of course breastfeeding.
And this is real-life breastfeeding: you see it all. Sometimes the moms are completely shirtless, sometimes they are only partly exposed, but either way the viewer gets what she needs the most—seeing what a real-time breastfeeding latch looks like, not some drawing that bears little to no relation to what you see when you look down at your snuffling and gaping child. The material might sound explicit to some with more modest tastes, but it’s a DVD about breastfeeding, for heaven’s sake. And everything is presented in a matter-of-fact way—a glimpse into what life would be like if breastfeeding was more visible in this country, with partners and siblings alike comfortably hanging about while mom and baby do their thing.
The DVD’s script offers sound information and the latest research on breastfeeding, but delivers the facts in a conversational tone. I was happily surprised to see that it included footage of a Breast Crawl—something never discussed with me when my son was born just five years ago. In the clip, a brand new baby wriggles his way up his mother’s naked torso and instinctively finds a breast, crying just a little until finally latching on, nearly unassisted.
“The fact is that babies come into the world already knowing how to breastfeed,” intones the narrator. This is something all mothers at least inherently suspect, even when experiencing breastfeeding problems, but seeing it in action like this is quite moving.
Another pleasant surprise was the take on different breastfeeding positions. “Until a few years ago, we made a very big deal about positions for you and your baby,” says the narrator. These days, however, the best thing is “whatever works best for both of you.” The DVD does illustrate different common holds like the cradle, cross cradle, football, and side-lying positions, but it also encourages simply lying down with your baby on top of you, with as much skin-to-skin contact as possible. “In this position, you don’t have to do a thing, because your body supports your baby completely, and gravity does the rest.”
The nuts and bolts of the DVD (how breastfeeding works, why it’s important, how to do it) aren’t that surprising, but they are thorough, taking you from the first days after birth to the experience of weaning (the narrator does remind us of the AAP’s recommendation to breastfeed exclusively for six months, then at least one year or beyond).
There are also sections that discuss the partner’s role (“Simply put…to nurture you, so you can nurture your baby”) and frequently asked questions. Before you hear the expert answers to those FAQs, you first get moms sharing their individual experiences on the issue, which means you get a lot of different answers, sometimes with overlap, but mostly showing you that there is often no “one answer fits all” solution to common breastfeeding questions. This technique illustrates the idea that while breastfeeding has some universal qualities, it’s a highly individual experience.
The FAQ section also makes a case for finding a support network, reminding the viewer that every problem you might experience while breastfeeding has absolutely been experienced before by someone else, and there’s a solution to that problem. A tight circle of real-life buddies can get you through a lot. Lactation consultants and other experts can move mountains, but sometimes you just need to hear another tired mom like you say, “I hear you. It will get better.” You reach the credits feeling less isolated as you begin to navigate the world of breastfeeding.
The DVD’s production values are solid. Everything is brightly lit, glowing with lots of white backgrounds—a nice, refreshing reprieve for sleep-deprived eyes. I was a little surprised to learn that filmmaker David Stark has no children of his own. My initial reaction was, “Why was a man with no direct connection to breastfeeding compelled to make a breastfeeding DVD?” If you are wondering the same thing, he does address that here, while paying heartfelt tribute to his own mother. And while the DVD makes it very clear that it’s not a substitute for medical advice, it does credit six breastfeeding experts who support the medically sound advice.
Of course, mothers are the experts of their own experiences, and some of the most poignant, stick-with-you moments come from moms speaking (seemingly) off-the-cuff about what breastfeeding means to them.
“When I nurse, it is the most amazing feeling…together he and I are growing and I am giving him what he needs to be a strong, healthy young man…[it’s] like nothing I ever thought I would experience,” says one emotional mom. “And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I would never trade that for anything.”
Mary Jessica Hammes is an Athens, Georgia-based writer, trapeze instructor, knitter, gardener, comic book enthusiast, and hula hooper. She is mom to Tommy.
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